Digestive issues are a common complaint, but just because so many people suffer with these issues doesn’t make them normal. In fact, a breakdown in digestive function is at the root of many health issues. You owe it to yourself to make sure your digestion works for you and not against you! It’s the place to start when it comes to your health, and its functionality affects everything else.
You’re really only as healthy as your gut, after all. If there is a breakdown anywhere in the digestive tract, from the mouth (time spent chewing) to the small intestine (breakdown and absorption of nutrients), digestion can be compromised, leading to potential health issues down the road.
On the flipside, if you can improve your digestion you can drastically improve your health. The relationship between what you eat, how you process what you eat, what your body absorbs and ultimately how you feel is important!
70% of Americans do or will suffer with digestive dysfunction in their lifetime. Even if you don’t have typical symptoms of poor digestion, such as gas, bloating, or constipation, if you have dysfunction or disease of any kind, you’ve likely got a breakdown somewhere in the digestive system that triggered a downward spiral. Fatigue, brain fog, skin issues, cravings? These can also signal a breakdown in the digestive system (even if you don’t have the typical digestive symptoms). Digestion is at the root of all other functions in the body. Your gut is your body’s second brain and when you begin to understand just how interconnected our body systems actually are and how every single symptom that ails you can be triggered by poor gut health, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing the best you can to keep it in good shape!
So, what can you start doing today to keep this all-important system in shape? Here are some tips!
10 Easy Tips to Improve Digestion Naturally
1. Chew Your Food
Chewing well is a critical and yet widely overlooked practice! Chew thoroughly to help food digest (food should be liquid before you swallow) Saliva contains enzymes you need to begin breaking down the food for digestion and you don’t want to rush through this process. Our stomach doesn’t have teeth. To properly digest our food, we need to do a lot of work in the mouth. When we eat on the run or gulp down our food, digestion gets compromised. Slow down, savor your food and chew it well.
2. Boost Stomach Acid
This is an area of misconception for most people. Many people who have heartburn, gas and bloating likely have too little stomach acid, not too much. The typical treatment is to take antacids, which reduces stomach acid even further, exacerbating the problem. Proper stomach acid levels are critical for the breakdown of proteins in the stomach. Stomach acid also destroys pathogenic bacteria that can lead to illness. Boost stomach acid naturally by adding freshly-squeezed lemon to your water or by drinking one tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar in water each morning. I add both to warm water with a dash of cayenne every morning and honestly, I never feel the same without it.
3. Drink More Water (but not too much with your meal!)
Water is an important element for health in general and digestion in particular. However, try to drink most of your water in between meals, rather than during the meal as it can dilute stomach acid and interfere with all the fluids of digestion, making it harder to break down your food.
4. Add in probiotics
Our gut is teeming with bacteria and that’s good! But if the balance in our bacteria gets tipped in the wrong direction, it can lead to digestive issues. We need good bacteria to strengthen the immune system, reduce chronic inflammation, help remedy leaky gut and more. You can get more of the “good bugs” by taking a probiotic supplement or with raw fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir or kimchi.
5. Reduce or Eliminate Processed Foods
Processed “foods” are hugely challenging for the digestive system. A good thing to keep in mind: If you don’t recognize an ingredient on the label, your body won’t either! Processed foods are full of “anti-nutrients”, which means the body must deplete its own nutrient stores for these foods to metabolize, essentially robbing the body of nutrients rather than nourishing. This also causes your body to expend more energy than it should. More processed foods = less energy for you. Stick to whole foods as much as possible.
Yes, exercise is good for just about everything, including digestion. It takes healthy muscle tone all around the abdomen to help move food through our digestive tract. Increasing exercise can improve digestion, even if you don’t change what you eat!
7. Don’t Eat Too Much
Overeating of any food is taxing on the digestive system. It requires the body to expend a lot of energy, adds stress on the system and forces the body to try to use too many nutrients at once. Slow down, and only eat until you are three-quarters full.
8. Practice Gratitude
Digestion actually begins in the brain. When you take a few moments before you eat to pause and reflect, either with blessings, gratitude, or a few deep breaths, you are activating the brain signals for saliva to release and get the digestive system prepped and ready. It also calms the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing you to relieve stress, which is another problem area for the digestive system! Being in a relaxed state creates better digestion.
9. Eat More Fiber
Fiber helps keep your colon healthy by speeding up the transit time through the body. A faster transit time means any toxins you’ve taken in spend less time in the body. Fiber also helps remove the bad bacteria and toxins from the colon. Make sure you get both soluble fiber (think beans, lentils, peas, fruits and veggies), which absorbs toxins and unneeded cholesterol and insoluble fiber (nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruit skins, green veggies), which speeds up elimination.
10. Add in digestive enzymes
Our body produces these naturally but aging and a compromised system can lead to less production. In addition to probiotics, this might be another supplement you want to consider if you feel your digestion is compromised. Natural sources of digestive enzymes come in the form of raw and fermented foods as well. Fruits like pineapple, papaya and avocado are great sources, as are kefir, sauerkraut and miso.
Try putting these general tips into practice today for improved digestion. If you suffer with chronic digestive issues or feel they could be symptoms of a deeper issue, don’t hesitate to reach out to our office and learn how to become Fully FunctionalⓇ for life!